Virginia Governor Organizes New Group to Respond to Ebola

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced the creation Friday of a unified command group comprised of multiple state agencies

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced the creation Friday of a unified command group comprised of multiple state agencies as part of an effort to safeguard against any spread of the Ebola virus in Virginia.

McAuliffe said the group will work to make sure first responders have adequate training to treat Ebola patients and that state hospitals are able to coordinate potential care.

The agencies involved include the Department of Health, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Education, the state police, and the Virginia National Guard.

The Health Department's focus, McAuliffe said in a statement, "will be to keep the community informed, and ensure that, if there is any risk, the appropriate public health actions will be taken."

State Health Commissioner Marissa J. Levine said Ebola prevention efforts are based on the same principles and approaches Virginia's health system uses every day, but the unique aspects of the virus required the state to make sure its plans are up to date.

Levine has activated the regional hospital coordinating system, which was developed after 9/11 and the anthrax attack of 2001. It will assess the state's capability, region by region, to ensure appropriate coordination.

Earlier Friday, U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine asked Virginia hospital and health officials how prepared the state is to deal with any patients who have symptoms of Ebola.

In a letter, Kaine and Warner asked what is being done to ensure that Virginia hospitals and health care professionals have the supplies and training to deal with the deadly virus.

They also asked whether additional resources are needed with preparedness efforts. The letter cites potential resources from the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health, among other federal agencies.

The president and CEO of the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association said he will develop a thorough response to Kaine's and Warner's concerns.

Sean T. Connaughton also said the state's Hospital Preparedness Program "provides a framework for responding to health emergencies, including planning, equipment, communications capability and [personnel]."

The program, he said in a statement, was developed with state health officials to handle patients during health emergencies, "including infectious viruses such as Ebola."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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